Federal and Natural Headship


Most people balk when they are first confronted with the biblical teaching that all humans sinned in Adam. Their initial reflex seems to be, “How can God hold me accountable for something that Adam did?” This intuitive reaction to the doctrine of original sin is so consistent that it might just lead to the suspicion that most people are born Pelagians.

The two principal theories that attempt to answer this question are called federal headship and natural headship. To most people, the theories are hardly more comprehensible than the doctrine itself. Federal headship states that God sovereignly appointed Adam as the representative head of the human race, so that whatever obedience or disobedience Adam chose would be imputed to his posterity. Natural headship states that all of the human race was somehow in Adam, participating in his sin.

Most people can’t help thinking that federal headship is unfair. This supposed unfairness, however, evaporates pretty quickly once the theory is understood. Everybody understands that some people have to make choices for other people, and that sometimes these choices are matters of life and death. For example, small children are not allowed to decide for themselves whether they will receive an inoculation or other painful procedure. They do not have the maturity to make a wise choice. Parents are tasked to make the decision for the child, and a good parent will make the choice that mature persons would make for themselves if given the choice. Certainly Adam was in a better position to choose to obey God than any of his posterity. It makes sense that God would permit Adam to choose for all of his children. No evidence exists that any of Adam’s children would have made a better choice. In fact, none of them ever does.

For most people, natural headship is even less comprehensible. The theory teaches that the entire human race was somehow in Adam and sinned with him. Unfortunately, this articulation conjures up all the wrong images. People see themselves as microscopic homunculi situated within Adam’s body during the temptation, perhaps jumping up and down in anticipation of the sin and cheering him on in high, thin voices. Envisioned this way, the theory is easy to reject—but it is not really so ludicrous.

Natural headship grows out of the conviction that the human race is more than simply a collection of individuals. One must not define humanity by identifying recognizable human beings and then posit the race as an abstraction of these particular individuals. This approach would almost certainly overlook human persons who do not share the most recognizable properties. Those with genetic abnormalities could easily be classified as non-human, as could embryos. In fact, the so-called “pro-choice” movement took exactly this approach when attempting to justify abortion on demand. Who could believe that a tiny blob of tissue constituted a human person? The results have been disastrous.

The correct approach is to begin with the idea that the human race is a real thing. All those who proceed from the race are human beings, whether they share the more obvious characteristics of people or not. An embryo in the womb is a human being whether or not it looks like a miniature adult. Human nature pertains first to the race and only subsequently to individuals.

Perhaps an analogy can be found in the body, which comprises trillions of cells. Babies have very small bodies. Over time, those bodies grow to many times their original size: a seven pound baby may end up as a three hundred pound man. Not only do the cells multiply, but cells are regularly sloughed off and replaced by other cells. Most of the cells in the body are probably replaced (on average) every seven to ten years. Yet the body at eighty is numerically identical with the body at eight days—it is the same body. The identity of the body does not depend upon the continuity of the individual particles of which it is made.

At the present moment, the human race includes around seven billion living individuals. In 1999 it numbered about six billion. During the intervening years, upwards of 50 million people died each year, while about 135 million were born. The race now includes around one and one half billion people who were not part of it in 1999. It has lost half a billion people who were part of it at that time. But here is the important thing: it is still the same race.

Baby Boomers who grew up during the 1960s can remember when the human race included only three billion people. Nearly half of those are now dead—most of the generation that lived through the Depression and fought World War II is gone. Something like five billion people have been born into the race since the beginning of the 1960s. But it is still the same race. The integrity of the race does not depend upon the identity of the people whom it comprises.

In 1350 the total human population around the globe numbered about 370 million. Reeling from famines and plagues, the human race was much smaller than it is now. It included only a fraction of the number of individuals who now compose it. But it was the same race.

During the Middle Ages, humans numbered in the millions. At some point before that, the human race numbered in the hundreds of thousands. At one time, the race must have numbered in the hundreds. After the flood, the human race included only eight individuals. But at each stage, it was the same race.

If we trace human history back far enough, we shall make an important discovery. At one time, the human race consisted of a single individual, Adam. He stood in a unique position. Adam was not merely a solitary person. He was the entire human race. In some sense, all of the human race was in him, summed up in his being, because the race was the same race. All of his natural descendants emerged not only from him as an individual, but also (and more importantly) from him as a race.

When Adam acted, the entire race acted. When Adam chose, the entire race chose. When Adam sinned, the entire race sinned. This does not mean that all of his billions and billions of offspring were somehow individually present. It does mean that all of Adam’s descendants are included in the human race, and when Adam sinned, he was the same race.

God did not merely assign Adam’s choice arbitrarily to other people. No, in a meaningful sense we were in him, acting with him, sinning with him. We were not there as individuals, but as part of the undifferentiated essence of the human race. His guilt was not only personal, it was the guilt of the race. Whoever is Adam’s natural descendant—whoever is purely and simply a human being—must necessarily have been in him, participating with him.

“Because of this, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread unto all humans, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The text does not say that all were charged with one man’s sin. It says that all sinned. It could not be otherwise, for all were in him and all participated in his choice. McGuffey’s reader got it right: “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.”

George Herbert (1593-1633)

As men, for fear the starres should sleep and nod,
And trip at night, have spheres suppli’d;
As if a starre were duller then a clod,
Which knows his way without a guide:

Just so the other heav’n they also serve,
Divinities transcendent skie:
Which with the edge of wit they cut and carve.
Reason triumphs, and faith lies by.

Could not that Wisdome, which first broacht the wine,
Have thicken’d it with definitions?
And jagg’d his seamlesse coat, had that been fine,
With curious questions and divisions?

But all the doctrine, which he taught and gave,
Was cleare as heav’n, from whence it came.
At least those beams of truth, which onely save,
Surpasse in brightnesse any flame.

Love God, and love your neighbour. Watch and pray.
Do as ye would be done unto.
O dark instructions; ev’n as dark as day!
Who can these Gordian knots undo?

But he doth bid us take his bloud for wine.
Bid what he please; yet I am sure,
To take and taste what he doth there designe,
Is all that saves, and not obscure.

Then burn thy Epicycles, foolish man;
Break all thy spheres, and save thy head.
Faith needs no staffe of flesh, but stoutly can
To heav’n alone both go, and leade.


Kevin, does Rom 5:12 say when the all sinned?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Dr. Bauder this is a subject that has expressed a large amount of interest to me. Historically in church history inherited corruption and imputed guilt have been tied very closely and most who I talk to seem to say that the possible views out there are Natural/Seminal headship, Federal headship, or a view that states that mankind at birth is either good or a blank slate and we are just influenced by Adam’s sin (such as the pelegian view.) But after a lot of study and though I don’t think that is necessary. Imputed guilt and sin nature/inherited corruption are clearly different issues. Ryrie does a very good job of explaining this in his Basic Systematic Theology. Romans 5 is a very difficult passage to understand and I think a lot of that has to do with Paul trying to understand and explain the genetic effects of Adam’s sin in the New Testament era. I think it is very clean that Adam’s sin effected the human race. Sin’s corruption of the genetic code gave us total depravity and each person a sin nature. We all as Romans 5 puts it are born spiritually dead. Yet we as Adam’s decedents did not experience spiritual death as Adam did. We were born in the state of being spiritually dead. We are not being punished. Only Adam was guilty of original sin and only he was punished. But as his offspring we are affected by that sin. We are born into the state of being spiritually dead, similar to how a child whose father had aids is born in the physical state of one who has aids. We are separated from God because of our genetic state as sin. Being a sinner in direct fellowship with God would be agonizing, due to God’s holiness. Physical death is actually only partially a punishment, in fact one could consider it the mercy of God. If Adam an Eve were left in the garden and were continued to be allowed to eat of the tree of life they would continue to exist today in a depraved and corrupt physical body. In Romans 5 we became sinners based on the fact we have a sin nature.

So when do we become guilty of our own sin? I would say very early. I believe due to our corruption and sin nature as soon as we have the ability to think coherently we will sin, this in my view is before birth and very early after conception. Yet I would say that even though one is a sinner, one will not be sent to hell before he has the ability to understand the gospel of Christ (the age of accountability.) So in short one become guilty of sin sometime between conception and the age of accountability and probably very early in that time period. Does that leave the possibility open that someone could die without sinning. It does in my view leave a very small window for death to occur before one sins within the womb, but it is impossible for one to die without a corrupt sin nature. I would also say that an individual begins sinning so early in the conception process that the time between conception and sin is almost immeasurable.

This theory is very young in its process of development and I continue to hash and think it out all the time. And I am sure there are many things that I haven’t thought of, but I look forward to responses that will help stimulate or dissuade my thoughts on this view.


I don’t think that the tree had anything to do with physical life. The spiritual death that occurred in the garden manifested itself in a very real geographical sense - mankind was cast from the garden - from the real presence of God (sanctuary language). The physical death did not occur for hundreds of years later. I think what you’ll find is that the two trees were simply symbols - they did not have magical powers in and of themselves. The only reason that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was forbidden to partake. The knowledge of good and evil was experiential - an experience that they lacked before they partook. The tree of life is the same kind of symbol - in the presence of God there is life.

In terms of how sin is passed on, I believe that sin is passed on from generation to generation, as well as instantly from Adam. Be careful not to read in contemporary ideas of genetics into your theology. Mingling science and theology - and allowing science to strongly affect an interpretation (as a hermeneutical rule) will end you up in some interesting positions.

There is no reason to not take the Garden narrative as completely literal. Spiritual Death happened at being separated from God. and Physical death happened due to not eating from the tree, but not until Cain killed Abel, and Adam and Eve died of old age.

The entire view of Natural Headship and Tradutianism (The belief that the soul is genetic) includes a contemporary understanding of genetics and is a widely held view. Also most of those who believe in the direct imputation of Adam’s sin do not believe that one inherits the guilt of sin from generation to generation, only Adam’s sin is imputed.

Dr. Bauder,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this incredibly important subject. One of the reasons I wrote my recent book, Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices (Zondervan, 2013) is that I do not think we have given nearly enough attention to thinking about how we were “bound together” with Adam’s sin nor how believers are united to Christ.

In my book, I considered both the realist and federal positions regarding the transmission of Adam’s sin. Ultimately, I agree with Moo and Lloyd-Jones that the two positions need not be seen as mutually exclusive:

“While the realist view leaves us with some mystery as to precisely how we are united with Adam, our inability to plumb the depth of this truth does not negate the fact that it is true. And though the federalist view rightly emphasizes Adam as our representative covenant head, it needs the balance of the realist position because our union is about more than just representation; it is also a vital and organic reality.”

Dr. Chris Brauns



The physical death did not occur for hundreds of years later. I think what you’ll find is that the two trees were simply symbols - they did not have magical powers in and of themselves. The only reason that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because it was forbidden to partake.

What do you mean there by ‘magical powers’?

My own sense-making on that passage differs markedly from yours. To date, a central sense I get from the passage is that the fruit of the Tree Knowledge of Good and Evil was not perfectly suitable for consumption by the unfallen human physiology, such that that imperfection, if consumed by such a human, necessarily would introduce actual microbiological disorder to that human’s physiology, eventuating in complete physical death. In short, that that fruit was poison.

I note that God did not say, “Don’t eat that fruit, or I shall kill you.” Rather, God makes a general statement: “If you eat that fruit, you’re going to die”.

And, for me, the context of that general statement is a full context: both physical and spiritual: in regard not only to food, but to what God said about that particular instance of an otherwise apparently perfectly good food (I assume that to Adam and Eve it must have looked no less good for food than the fruit of any of the other trees, else God would not have made any effort to warn them of it). So, for me, I think that the interpretation of that general statement likewise is a full interpretation.

So, I’m thinking that if God had simply said, “If you eat that fruit, it will kill you”, then the matter would be simply physical death. But, God said, “You shall not eat it, for if you do, then you’ll die.” In the very context of food, that says to me that not only is that particular fruit itself not suitable for consumption by the unfallen human physiology, but that God Himself has made the effort to make known to them that the fruit of that one tree is the exception to the general statement that “the fruit of all the kinds of trees in this garden is your food.”

So, to me, it seems not only a false dichotomy, but a suspect precedent, to say that the fruit of that one tree cannot have been poison; that there was absolutely nothing wrong with that fruit itself; that God is the sort of Guy who so enjoys bossing us around that He actually would make a perfectly good food which He nonetheless forbids us to eat.

If that’s the kind of guy God is, then why didn’t He just make a lot more of that particular kind of tree, so that for every place in the garden where Adam and Eve went, they had one or more of that kind of tree ‘staring at them’?

Notice, if you will, that the Other Exceptional Tree was in the center of the garden along with that Bad Tree. There were only two Exceptional Trees. So, while the rest of the garden was full of only Trees of General Food, there was in the center of the garden a Tree of Special Food and a Tree of Bad Food. So, only in order to partake of the Tree of Special Food did Adam and Eve have called to their minds the Tree of Bad Food: “we must not eat it, or we’ll die; So, we won’t eat it.”

It seems they never got to the point of asking God why He even made such a tree.

And, in any case, they seem not to have acted as disinterested judges when the serpent offered them his own clever, preemptive interpretation: “Psst! The reason God told you not to eat it is because God wants to keep you naive and stupid and blindly loyal; because, in fact, that fruit has the power to make you equal to God in determining what is good and what is bad!”

But, if all of what the serpent said was true, then why did God bother not only to make that tree, but even to put it where humans could get at it to eat it? My answer is that the measures taken to prevent foolishness in a given kind of creature is necessarily never foolproof, so that, in face of the worst scenario with kind of that creature, the possibility of the lesser foolishness is best put out in the open in order to preempt the universal realization of the greatest foolishness.

So, for my own mind, I think that to say that ‘The only reason that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is because it was forbidden to partake’ is entirely too reductionist, too non-dymanic, too defensively concerned about avoiding even any seeming circularity.

I think that a similarly defensive concern is found in defining God’s omnipotence as ‘greater than the law of identity’; that God’s omnipotence cannot be defined save contingent on the Christian’s sense that the unbeliever’s logic can seem sound: that a definition of God’s omnipotence must be defined as an ontological non-mutuality between Divine Goodness and Divine power, so that, for example, God seems to be lacking for His very ontological necessity: that He is short in both power and choice in face of His ‘inability to have made a prior choice about His very existence and nature’. For example, in Farrington; Problems Arising From An Inconsistent View Of God, Heythrop Journal: Farrington grants that God is, at least initially, perfect in Knowledge, Beneficience, etc., and he wishes to preserve God’s perfect goodness as something with which he can identify. But, then, he contrarily reasons that both God’s own ‘logic’ and God’s own power must be anti-rational lest humans become proud of their own rational faculties. Such contrary reasoning presupposes that God’s own ontology must be defined, at least fractionally, in view of a contingency such as human pride-of-mind. As if the integrity of God’s very being needs to be protected from that pride since a human himself can feel his own mind genuinely threatened by the logic of that pride in others.

The next word you read is true (and now it's the seventh-to-last word).


,…but it is impossible for one to die without a corrupt sin nature.

I’m not clear what all you mean by that. I assume you mean, at least, that (in my own more-or-less vague wording) it is impossible for complete physical human death ever to occur without there existing a physical corruption to the original unfallen human physiology.

The reason I mention this is because I assume that Jesus’s own body was subject to the general forces of a cursed Creation, including not only attaining physical maturity within two (rather than seven), decades, but potentially growing ‘old’ and dying according to the natural order of the fallen state of Creation. If this my assumption is correct, and if Jesus had no sin nature (by having not been conceived from Adam), then there is something about having an inherited connection to the physically fallen Adam that makes us literally ‘conceived in sin’; such that we, unlike Jesus, have a predisposition to sin. By this account, then, Jesus’ own humanity (despite being in a body that, given enough time, would have died of old age) merely was that of the pre-sin Adam.

The next word you read is true (and now it's the seventh-to-last word).

What I meant there is that although my view leaves the possibility open for someone to die without sinning (however unlikely). All individuals will die with a corrupt sin nature even if they do die without sin.

I believe Jesus himself received “genetics” effected by total depravity. Yet due to His Deity the sin nature was either useless or completely obliterated due to the presence of Deity. In my mind this is a necessary part of our unity in Adam. I do not think Total Depravity is a male “gene.” This is kind of silly. It is complete speculation based on the perceived need to prevent the imputation of sin onto Christ. My view eliminates that issue altogether. This is why paternal sin genetics is an issue.

Also the idea that sin is tied to the man is dangerous. Due to many advances in science we have stories like this.


It seems they are very close to being able to achieve this and the view of the paternal tie to sin, could in theory produce individuals without sin natures. Now you can say this will never work, and say that God would never allow that, and that is possible, but you are at that point presuming that God would not allow something He has never spoken about in His word. Remember the idea of the paternality of sin is not biblical but theological and completely man derived. Most who believe in Seminal Headship believe sin was not imputed to Christ just due to God not choosing to impute it, which is a much safer and fairer view.

The death that was promised was not physiological, nor would the tree necessarily cause physiological problems - this cannot be surmised from the text. It can be, however, surmised by attempting to place modernist understandings and tendencies on the text. If eating is certain, than death is certain. This is how the command reads in the Hebrew text. The immediate result of eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was to move from theoretical knowledge of good and evil to experiential knowledge of good and evil. The consequence was death - which began on the day that they partook by a removal from the garden (and thus from the presence of God - i.e. spiritual death), and a certain eventuality of physical death.

From another perspective, consider the the nature of the covenant-like aspects of Genesis 2 (I am a dispensationalist who has no problem with an Adamic covenant). Covenants are either bilateral or unilateral that are cut by oaths sworn and include responsibilities by both parties. It appears from the text that Adam has a choice - a red pill/blue pill choice. On the one hand, Adam can refuse to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or, on the other hand, he can choose to eat of the fruit of that tree. If he refuses to eat when the temptation comes, his untested created holiness (for without holiness or some sort of innate righteousness, a man cannot have a relationship with God) becomes tested, and his relationship with God becomes based on merit - a theoretical possibility before the fall. If, however, he eats, he loses his untested created holiness/righteousness and his relationship with God is cut off because of that loss (in this sense, in a very literal way - he is physically removed from the garden - physical death is thus only a shadow of spiritual death - spiritual death is the original death).

So the test came in the form of a law - do not eat - with the unspoken promise of blessing, and the spoken promise of curse. Adam ate, and thus as the federal representative of humanity and the physical father of humanity, all men came under that curse and condemnation of death (first spiritual, and second physical). The knowledge of good and evil was experiential knowledge - whereas once man did not experience good and evil (but evidently knew what the words meant - as well as the word “death”), man had never truly experience evil (and can one understand goodness without understanding evil first? Perhaps not in our contemporary situation). Neither had mankind ever experienced death until that point. And so afterwards, mankind “knew” death.

So what made the consumption of the plant wrong? Botanical toxins? “Bad food?” I don’t think so. What made the consumption of the plant wrong was that the sovereign creator of the universe forbade mankind to eat of that plant. If I command my daughter not to eat a cookie sitting on a plate on the counter, and she chooses to eat of it, she has sinned , but it was not because the cookie was bad. In fact, the cookie itself was “good for food, and pleasant to the eyes.” What made eating the cookie wrong was that father forbade the eating of the cookie - and she chose to be defiant to that law.

Although I do not think that the food of the tree was some kind of poison that gave physical death. I do think one must consider that there was some literal effect on Adam and Eve that they experienced due to its conception. I believe in granted upon them an understanding of good and bad, to where as previously all they knew was God’s commandment. I think in some way God had a literal reason that they should not eat of it. It wasn’t just a test. Yet it is very clear that both spiritual death and later physical death where not direct results of eating the fruit. They were a consequence of Sin. Sin can not be present with the Lord, So God had to remove them from His presence. And by God’s taking away of the tree of life, which I do think granted eternal life. God allowed mortality of the human race to prevent them from experiencing eternity in a sinful state.

As to the original post, there were simply too many assumptions to take it as a strong positional argument. Exegesis should rule theology, and exegesis was precious in the article.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

[James K]

As to the original post, there were simply too many assumptions to take it as a strong positional argument. Exegesis should rule theology, and exegesis was precious in the article.

Although I agree with you, to be fair to Dr. Bauder, one must understand that theology always works in a system. There is no complete system of theology that works together purely by exegesis. All systems have wholes in their web of the system that must be filled in based on logical reasoning and what the rest of one’s system of theology congruently fits. Headship is one of those issues. Augustine was the first to seriously consider this issue and brought about the idea and need of headship based on the perceived guilt that death is a punishment forwith everyone must have guilt in order to fairly receive. Since then some form of headship has been a standard view in Church history. I believe that death being a punishment that we must have something on our account to receive is unnecessary. Death is something passed onto us, because of our post fall genetic state. We are no longer genetically the same as the original man created. Adam and Eve died spiritually, No one sense has ever died spiritually because we are born in the state of being spiritually dead, we become spiritually alive at salvation (although still not completely restored to the original state till we receive our new bodies). The punishment was to Adam that he would become spiritually dead and because he became spiritually dead we inherited that state genetically. The same is true for physical death, except physical death was in my mind mercy that we would not have to spend eternity inside corrupt human flesh.

Paynen wrote:

I do not think Total Depravity is a male “gene.” This is kind of silly. It is complete speculation based on the perceived need to prevent the imputation of sin onto Christ.

I have often struggled with this concept myself and wondered if there really is such thing as a “sin gene” passed through the father at conception. It seemed to make sense that in a view of inherited guilt, wherein Christ’s miraculous virgin birth exempted him from being guilty of Adam’s sin, that the man must by his lack of participation in Christ’s conception be responsible for passing the guilt of sin to his offspring. Even recently, Paynen and I had a conversation in person in which he asked me my understanding of original sin (which I’ve termed “inherited guilt” to avoid confusion with other understandings of the term “original sin”), and the supposed “sin gene” produced by the male was the exact argument I used to defend what I believed was the legitimacy of this view. However, the bbc article to which Paynen refers us presents, in my view, potential evidence to negate such an understanding of the transmission of sin from Adam to us today. I quickly add the article itself admits that the scientists’ manipulation of female somatic cells waits to bear bona fide results (and that the bbc article was written over a decade ago with no follow-up that I’m aware of appears telling); nevertheless, I believe the transmission of guilt from Adam to present day can be explained without having to defend it this way.

In his work Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem’s chapter entitled “Sin” explains the concept of inherited guilt in a way I believe remains consistent with the teaching of Scripture. He says, “Paul explains the effects of Adam’s sin in the following way … ‘Therefore … sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned’ (Romans 5:12). The context shows that Paul is not talking about actual sins that people commit every day of their lives, for the entire paragraph (Rom. 5:12-21) is taken up with a comparison between Adam and Christ.”

A knowledge of Greek, according to Grudem, is helpful here, because the word for “sinned” (hemarton) is in the aorist, which within a historical narrative indicates a completed past action. Grudem says, “Here Paul is saying that something happened and was completed in the past, namely, that ‘all men sinned.’ But it was not true that all men had actually committed sinful actions at the time that Paul was writing, because some had not even been born yet, and many others had died in infancy before committing any conscious acts of sin. So Paul must be meaning that when Adam sinned, God considered it true that all men sinned in Adam” (p. 494). I realize a tremendous amount of weight (in fact, it would seem the major thrust of such an argument) lies in this particular understanding of the term “sinned,” but I believe it is compelling nonetheless.

On a side note, I realize Paynen would disagree with Grudem’s mention that infants do not commit any conscious acts of sin (a statement on which I provide no comment, though I believe Romans 9:10-11 may swing the argument into Grudem’s favor), but on the flip side I would like to caution Paynen to be careful of endorsing a sort of “blank slate” conception regardless of how relatively, even infinitesimally, early the infant is able to sin in order for him to be responsible for his own, not Adam’s, guilt. This sort of view leaves open the door for the infant to die prematurely and thus be responsible for his own guilt, which may or may not be present yet (?) John 3:18 says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God” (ESV). I admit one can argue that on the one hand it may be hard to prove an infant has the ability to accept or reject Jesus Christ, but on the other hand, the verse seems to make clear that one is “condemned already;” I believe this can be understood in not just the sense of human decision but also in an ontological sense (meaning here, inherited guilt). In other words, one is condemned not only because he has refused to believe in the name of Christ, but also because of the reality he is human and thus has been condemned from the very beginning. It seems that Romans 9:21-23 supports this. The verses say, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— (bold mine)” These verses must be understood in light of election, in that both the vessels of wrath and the vessels of mercy were wrought in sin (Psalm 51:5 supports this view for a “vessel of mercy,” King David, being wrought in sin).

Anyway, to get back to defending inherited guilt and avoiding the issue of the “sin gene,” Grudem suggests that “our legal guilt is inherited directly from Adam and not through a line of ancestors” (p. 494). He brings up some good points to develop this statement further, but I will stop here. I look forward to feedback!

Dr. Bauder,

For me, it has been an issue of whose sin I am responsible for. These are my thoughts:

Federal Headship holds sin to be a legal responsibility. Adam sinned, therefore the entire race is responsible for the guilt of his sin. Not our own sin - Adam’s sin.

Natural Headship: “It holds that God imputes the sin of Adam immediately to all his posterity, in virtue of that organic unity of mankind by which the whole race at the time of Adams transgression existed, not individually, but seminally in him as its head” (Strong’s definition).

I take Rom 5:19 to mean that Adam’s offense constitutes us as sinners, not that we are guilty for his particular sin. Adam’s very nature of untested holiness was sullied by the fall, and he passed this corrupt nature onwards to his children.

Adam was not merely a progenitor, but, as it were, a root, and that, accordingly, by his corruption, the whole human race was deservedly vitiated (Calvin).

I also see an issue with the Federal Headship theory and the origin of the soul.

Creationism: Many Reformed folks (who likely hold to Federal Headship) would hold the creationist view of the origin of the soul. This views holds that the soul is created by God at the moment of conception. The problem for me is that this makes God responsible for the creation of sinful souls.

Tradicianism: This view sees the whole human race immediately created in Adam and physically propagated from him by natural generation.

At this point we’re getting pretty deep in the weeds, but it is important. Here is my summary:

Federal Headship: Guilt imputed to whole race, souls created at conception, therefore God creates sinful souls.

Natural Headship: Adam’s sin imputed to entire race, who is the root of the whole human race. The whole race was seminally present in him, therefore this corrupt nature was merely transmitted onwards and is being transmitted still.

Dr. McCune, for one, disagrees with the Natural headship view. I believe his Systematic has some of the more recent criticisms of the view (vol. 2, pg 74-78), particularly arguing against Strong. It is worth looking at. Interestingly, he does hold to traducianism … !

Interesting stuff!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.